Kimberly Eretzian Smirles, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychology at Emmanuel College, was awarded a grant by the Marion & Jasper Whiting Foundation to investigate the views of Japanese women on issues of gender and leadership. For the past two years, Smirles has been teaching the course "Women & Leadership" to Japanese students from Tokyo's Showa Women's University. This summer, Smirles traveled to Tokyo to interview students who took her course as well as those who did not on their perceptions of gender roles and their own potential as leaders. Students also completed an online survey of their gender role beliefs, leadership values and life goals.
While teaching her course to Japanese women who come to Showa's satellite campus in Jamaica Plain to study business-related subjects, Smirles has come to learn much about the perceptions of Japanese women concerning careers, family and gender roles in society. Overall, she said that "representation of women in leadership roles is much lower in Japan than in the US, but things are changing." Smirles said that the Japanese government is "pushing to get more women in the workforce and more in leadership roles," and there are reports that social support systems that help women further their careers, like child care, are improving as well.
Drawing on her experience teaching Showa students and her understanding of changes in Japanese society, Smirles used her grant to conduct a series of interviews with female students in Tokyo. In time, she hopes to interview American women on the same issues and develop a travel course on cross-cultural views of gender roles for Emmanuel students.
The Marion & Jasper Whiting Foundation provides grants to university and college professors to study abroad and "improve and enhance the quality of their instruction." In recent years, several Emmanuel professors have received grants and fellowships from the organization. "We're grateful for the support we've received from the Foundation in the past few years," said Dr. William C. Leonard, vice president of Academic Affairs and dean of Arts and Sciences at Emmanuel College. "These grants provide important opportunities for our faculty to expand their research and become better teachers."
Recent recipients of Marion & Jasper Whiting Foundation grants include: Rebecca Moryl, Ph.D., assistant professor of Economics, who received a fellowship to study environmental economic policy in South Africa; Faina Ryvkin, Ph.D., professor of Chemistry, who received funding to research the history of Soviet science and technology; and Jonathon Paul Sydnor, Ph.D., assistant professor of Theology and Religious Studies, who received a grant to study Hinduism and interreligious relations in Trinidad; and William C. Leonard, Ph.D., vice president of Academic Affairs, dean of Arts and Sciences and associate professor of History, who received a grant to research Charles Lenox Remond, a black abolitionist from Boston, who traveled to Ireland to speak about slavery in the US.